Sunday, April 20, 2008

Language Abuse

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”


Knowing even just a little of another language besides your own can be very rewarding, and deepen understanding of your native tongue. For instance, many words which have changed their meaning in English betray their true colours in German. When Shakespeare wrote

"And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks."
(My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun)

the word reek did not have the negative connotations it now does, and in modern German riechen simply means to smell without any negative associations (unless explicitly stated). Weinen which in German means to cry is another word which in English has found itself transformed into something a little more unpleasant sounding; to whine now carries more baggage with it than a simple cry which can be done softly or joyfully.


After estate agents, property developers must rank as some of the greatest abusers of Language. Have you ever seen a new apartment complex described as anything other than luxury, no matter that they are no bigger than rabbit-hutches? And what the hell does contemporary living mean? That you are living in the present era as opposed to going on regular time-travel jaunts? "No, sorry it's not for me, I was looking for a house without a toilet or running water. Never mind, I'll take a look at the non-contemporary living development up the road. Sorry for wasting your time." Or the office block situated in an inspiring location. Since when the fuck can an industrial park overlooking a shopping centre be considered inspiring? "So, Herr ex-camp guard, what was Auschwitz like for the inmates? Sorry, did you say it was relaxing?" You wouldn't buy it for a second, so why do property developers think they can misuse words in such a blatantly mendacious fashion?

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